Friends believe the divine Light is accessible to all people, regardless of race, sex, age, or material wealth. Everyone has the potential to respond to God within. All persons ought to have the opportunity to develop their talents and skills under the leadings of the Spirit. Equality is not sameness. It is equality of respect. Every person is a child of God.
Early Friends refused to acknowledge class distinctions, hence the use of plain language and refusal of hat honor. Education of both men and women was considered essential in order to develop the potential to serve God. Eighteenth and nineteenth century Friends were called to witness against slavery and against the unequal opportunities open to women. Twentieth century Friends have tried to address the problems of racism, women's rights, and the unequal distribution of the world's resources.
God Revealed in Every Person
A very far-reaching part of the Quaker message, affecting character and behavior unconsciously, is the affirmation that if God is revealing himself to every human person, then there can be no parts of life which are "secular" in contrast to other parts which are "sacred." God is equally relevant to every part of life, whether it is Saturday (recreation), Sunday (worship), or Monday (work). The attempt is made to level up, even though in practice we sometimes level down; the underlying faith is that at all times our behavior should reflect the conviction that God is at work in those with whom we mix, and in ourselves; that every human encounter can fan or quench the divine spark in another; and that our lives are at all times lived in the presence of God.
Hugh L. Doncaster: The Quaker message (Pendle Hill pamphlet, no. 181), 1972, p. 17
Everyone is Equal in the Sight of God
I have never lost the joy of sitting in silence at the beginning of Meeting, knowing that everything can happen, knowing the joy of the utmost surprise; feeling that nothing is preordained, nothing is set, all is open. The Light can come from all sides. The joy of experiencing the Light in a completely different way than one has thought it would come is one of the greatest gifts that Friends' Meeting for Worship has brought me.
I believe that Meeting for Worship has brought the same awareness to all who have seen and understood the message that everyone is equal in the sight of God, that everybody has the capacity to be the vessel of God's word. There is nothing that age, experience and status can do to pre-judge where and how the Light will appear. This awareness the religious equality of each and every one is central to Friends. Early Friends understood this and at the same time they fully accepted the inseparable unity of life, and spoke against the setting apart of the secular and the sacred. It was thus inevitable that religious equality would be translated into the equality of everyday social behaviour. Friends' testimony to plain speech and plain dress was both a testimony of religious equality and a testimony of the unacceptability of all other forms of inequality.
Ursula M. Franklin: Perspectives on Friends' testimonies in today's world (Gardner Lecture, Canadian Y. M.), 1979, p. 8.
All Are in the Family of God
I was moved of the Lord to recommend to Friends, for the benefit and advantage of the Church of Christ, that the faithful women who were called to the belief of the Truth, being made partakers of the same precious faith, and heirs of the same everlasting Gospel order, and therein be meet helps unto men in the restoration, in the service of Truth, in the affairs of the Church, as they are outwardly in civil, or temporal things. That so all the family of God, women as well as men, might know, possess, perform, and discharge their offices and services in the house of God.
George fox: Journal, ed. John L. Nickalls, 1952, p 668 (entry for 1673).
Power of the Lord Speaks in Women
Those that speak against the power of the Lord, and the Spirit of the Lord speaking in a woman, simply by reason of her sex or because she is a woman, not regarding the Seed and Spirit and Power that speaks in her, such speak against Christ and his Church.
Margaret Fell, Womens speaking, 1666, p. 4.
Women are Messengers of Redemption
Thus we see that Jesus owned the Love and Grace that appeared in Women and did not despise it; and by what is recorded in the Scriptures, he received as much love, kindness, compassion and tender dealing toward him from Women, as he did from many others. Mark this, you that despise and oppose the message of the Lord God that he sends by Women: what had become of the redemption of the whole body of man-kind, if they had not believed the message that the Lord Jesus sent by these Women, of and concerning his resurrection?
Ibid., pp. 6-7
God's Love is Universal
To consider mankind otherwise than brethren, to think favours are peculiar to one nation and exclude others, plainly supposes a darkness in the understanding. For as God's love is universal, so where the mind is sufficiently influenced by it, it begets a likeness of itself and the heart is enlarged towards all men.
John Woolman: The journal and major essays of John Woolman, ed. Phillips P Moulton, Z971, p. 200.
Roots of Racial Prejudice
The roots of racial prejudice lie deep within us, and in seeking a solution to the evil results of racial tensions we need to search our own hearts. Our belief in the significance of every individual in the sight of God and his need for an abundant life can guide us even when we shrink before the vastness of the problem.
London Y. M. Proceedings, 1952, min. 41, pp. 233-4.
Children of One God
Racial discrimination arises because fundamentally it is easier to see a man as a stranger rather than as a brother if his skin is of a different colour. The stranger tends to be feared rather than loved, and it must be remembered that fears engendered by such differences are not always imaginary. They can be resolved only in so far as relationships between man and man, of whatever race, are conceived in terms of a constant realisation that the members of one race are the children not of the members of another race but the children of God. Against this, imperialism, exploitation and even paternalism cannot stand.
Race Relations Conference, 1954, min. 4.
Redemption From the Spirit of Oppression
Oppression in the extreme appears terrible, but oppression in more refined appearances remains to be oppression, and where the smallest degree of it is cherished it grows stronger and more extensive: that labour for a perfect redemption from this spirit of oppression is the great business of the whole family of Christ Jesus in this world.
John Woolman: "A plea for the poor," (written in 1763-4) in The journal and major essays, ed. Phillips P Moulton, 1971, p. 262.